Freudian Flapper “Salome” dances to ukulele Waikiki wail

The New York Times published on 23 May 1922 a review of Oscar Wilde’s play “Salome”, which was showing at the Klaw Theatre.

Although the critic thought Miss Thelma Harvey forgetful of her lines, and her voice weak, her ‘supple lines’ did impress — especially in her dance of the seven veils.

The veils, it was said, ‘fell like a drop of a hat’, and the dance — with a slight nod toward Egyptian style — was more like a Hula hoochy-cooch to the strumming of ukulele (which the lashing of fringes tipped with beads drowned out).

The reviewer concluded that, as a Freudian Flapper, the new Salome was all there.

But… According to the Norwalk Hour of 17 March 1922, Miss Harvey was lucky to be there at all, having been arrested in New York for performing what police termed “an improper dance”. Thelma said at the time that she had danced the same dance in San Francisco and had the enthusiastic sponsorship of the police chief.

Thelma's probably to the left

I have heard that ukulele music has always been more popular on the west coast of the United States.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Savage Flappers go wild with ukuleles

Well, I got your attention, anyway…; the photographs below come from the New York Tribune, 16 July 1922, wherein are described the savages, college girls who act as guides to visitors to the Yellowstone National Park.

'Savages' with ukuleles around a log fire

The accompanying text says, in part:

A ‘savage’ generically speaking, is any one who works there, but in actual use of Yellowstonese more minute classifications are made. The ‘gear-jammer’ is the driver of your big yellow bus, the ‘pack rat’ is one of the college boys who work as porters, and when you speak of a ‘savage’ you usually are referring to one of that merry band which has become as celebrated in the Yellowstone as Old Faithful itself — the college girls who earn books and tuition during the summer as guides, waitresses and tent girls in the Yellowstone camps and who keep the great wonderland lively with their songs, plays and adventures. She is a happy and self-reliant creature, the savage, and the best type of American girl…

Savage flapper without ukelele

The savage summer commences at Salt Lake City, when the ‘Savage Special’, a real limited, pulls out of the station and heads north for west Yellowstone early in June…  Ukeleles are unlimbered and every station is serenaded right up to the park entrance itself, where, piling into the waiting buses, the savages scatter to the various camps.

So I wasn’t telling too much of a fib.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Missouri, the college, and the ukelele …

How things can change for the ukele …

“The Mikado” is Modernized
(The Daily Missourian, 29 May 1917)

“The Mikado,” the Gilbert and Sullivan opera given by the Christian College in the college auditorium last night, took on a modern turn when Benjamin Wood as Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner, in his song on who should be killed, enumerated the Kaiser, LaFollette, Bryan, the college serenaders, those who play ukelele and the dean of the college, and several others who might be done away with and not be missed.

Society Notes
(The Evening Missourian, 24 February 1919)

About 350 guests attended the informal open house which was given at the Elks club Saturday Night … During the early part of the evening a musical program was given, consisting of vocal and ukelele numbers. The ukele [sic] orchestra was composed of … Christian College girls.

Ukelele Club at Christian
(The Evening Missourian, 21 October 1919)

Christian College ukelele club was organized last night with thirty-five members. Miss Pauline Dopheide has been chosen director. Miss Dopheide says the most popular music among the girls who play ukelele is “Take Me to the Land of Jazz”.

Flappers in the making?

Might this be 'the' Pauline Dopheide (ca. 1924), accompanist to Hazel Dopheide?

BTW: Ukelele Ike (Cliff Edwards), ‘spent his early years’ in Hannibal, Missouri — see MISSOURI: A GUIDE TO THE “SHOW ME” STATE, pages 217-218.

Published in: on February 13, 2010 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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The flapper and the dangerous ukelele fad

The New York Tribune gives warning and some advice, 20 August 1922. “This flapper habit of strumming the ukelele is in danger of growing.”

Some Antidotes for ukeleles

by Fairfax Downey

The ukelele has become the favorite musical weapon of the flapper. She has found that it is very becoming and portable. Her playing of it stamps her as so much more melodious than the girls who can put in a new phonograph needle, however dexterously. The flapper, with the ukelele has precipitated a new age of troubadours, such as Provence never saw, fortunately for the acoustics of that land. The troubadouress clutches the instrument with one hand and makes aimless yet graceful passes at its strings with the other. Some noise results, happily not much because of the foresight of the inventor of the ukelele — foresight which was not shared by the inventor of the saxophone; maladictions on him!

Flapper with ukelele

The sad part of the matter is the necessity the player seems to be under of singing as she strums. When the troubadouress has an accomplice, one or other almost inevitably will chant a flat alto. Needless to say the performance is under the personal auspices of the Goddess of Discord. Almost the only way to check the troubadouress is to play at the same game, which should cause her to stop as she will not then be “different”. Thus, for the public good, citizens might be persuaded to walk to work playfully beating bass drums attached to their persons. While trombones and bass horns might not be feasible in the subway rushes, there is always the piccolo. But there would be the same old annoyance one has with one’s newspaper. Someone would always be looking over your shoulder and reading your music.

Ukelele to Flapper

I saw this, and just couldn’t help it. BTW, my ukulele/ukelele book will reduce the need, if not the urge, to sing.

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm  Comments (6)  
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Ukuleles in Fiction

Just thought I’d begin to look for examples of the ukulele as mentioned in fiction — novels. I don’t have many examples yet (just passing references), but I intend to kept an eye or two out for them.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) mentions the ukulele in at least two of his short stories.

Flappers and Philosophers (1920), ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’

Bernice hesitated. She felt that wit in some form was demanded of her, but under her cousin’s suddenly frigid eyes she was completely incapacitated.

“I don’t know,” she stalled.

“Splush!” said Marjorie. “Admit it!”

Bernice saw that Warren’s eyes had left a ukulele he had been tinkering with and were fixed on her questioningly.

“Oh, I don’t know!” she repeated steadily. Her cheeks were glowing.

“Splush!” remarked Marjorie again.

Tales of the Jazz Age (1921) [Blog note: Edith is at a party, and is attracting attention]

A dark man cut in with intense formality.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he said gravely.

“I should say I do. Your name’s Harlan.”

“No-ope. Barlow.”

“Well, I knew there were two syllables anyway. You’re the boy that played the ukulele so well up at Howard Marshall’s house party.

“I played–but not–“

A man with prominent teeth cut in.

Another novelist who mentions the ukulele is Fanny Heaslip Lea (1884-1955). The Evening Independent (21 December 1926) in announcing Ms. Lea’s divorce on page 16, describes her novels in this way:

Oh, those stories! Ukuleles ‘neath the moon, passionately-red hibiscus, and maids that sat in grass skirts on a star-drenched beach and twanged and twanged at a uke.

So I went looking for her novels and the only reference I came across was in Sicily Anne: A Romance, Harper & Brothers, 1914. Disappointingly, page 64 provides this particularly unromantic exchange:

Mrs. Kennard, delicately fingering an ukelele,
called out to him at once.

“Jimmy-boy! Come, sing. We need you.”

“Nothing doing!” said Jimmy Fox, untruthfully
and impolitely. “I’ve got a cold.”

and a little further on …

Once he [Jimmy-boy] killed a mosquito, smearing it brutally upon the sleeve of his pajamas, but the bloody deed afforded him small relief. When the rest of the house-party ceased from troubling and the last ukelele tinkled into silence upon the last laughing good night, he breathed a prayer of gratitude, but it was two hours after that before his eyelids closed definitely and sleep came upon him unawares.

That’s it until something better comes along.

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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